stromony.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Natsumi-Sign.jpg” alt=”" width=”500″ height=”402″ />NATSUMI
226 W. 50th Street
NY, NY 10019
Rating: Wholly Gastromony
Japanese, ($$ – $$$)
ARIGATIO, LA DOLCE VITA
Perhaps Miyagi said it best, “Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.” Thankfully the former duo of Haru restaurant, Barbara Matsumura and Chef Hari Konagaya, have not only caught a fly, but rather an entire swarm with this hidden gem of a restaurant in midtown. Last summer Miguel stumbled across this cozy little restaurant while staying at The Amsterdam Court Hotel in which this tranquil eatery resides. Miguel decided to duck downstairs and grab a quick bite after work and halfway through his meal picked up the phone to call me. “I”m having the best sushi ever, you”re gonna die.” I wasn”t quite sure how to react to that statement. On the one hand, I was happy for Miguel that he had finally found the holy grail of sushi, but on the other I found it slightly disturbing that he decided to shit on his own parade with talk of death. I mean, yes, someday I would die, but did he really feel that this was the proper time to discuss my fate? He confused matters more by cooing “Ohhh sake, gotta run.” And before I could inquire any further about the fate of my future, he was gone.
After months of me dodging the grim reaper at every turn, Miguel decided to surprise me one cold, rainy night in December by taking me to dinner followed by a Broadway show. The show was great, but the real star of that evening was the exquisite experience we had at Natsumi.
I”m not even sure where or how to begin this review but let”s just say Natsumi”s not your average, run-of-the-mill sushi joint. Somehow they”ve managed to blend Japanese and Italian cuisine into to something so fresh and innovative that for my next birthday I”m going to ask Sophia Loren to f*@# George Takei so I can steal their baby and groom the child into becoming my very own culinary savant.
I realize the combination of the two cuisines sound bizarre, but trust me, it works. After making a mad dash in the rain from the subway to the front doors of Natsumi, we were immediately escorted to a cozy banquette in the middle of this serene, beautifully lit dining room. Our waiter Tony was incredibly friendly and made us feel at home the second we sat down. His knowledge of the sake menu was phenomenal as he helped us in narrowing down the perfect, well-rounded bottle of Junmai to start. Still damp from the rain and slightly chilled to the bone, we decided to start off with a bowl of the most delicious, flavorful soup I”ve ever had. Chicken soup may warm the soul, but the Edamame Dumpling Soup at Natsumi scorches the heart. One sip of this fragrant mushroom broth with a hint of truffle oil accompanied by several plump edamame filled dumplings and you”ll never be the same.
We also shared the chicken and shrimp dumplings as well as a beautiful tuna carpaccio with a pepperoncini vinaigrette. The paper-thin cuts of tuna dissolved in my mouth, requiring barely a chew, and left an unexpected burst of heat lingering on my tongue.
Next came a stunning plate of sushi that was a true work of art. The colorful, innovative rolls were so beautifully laid out that it almost seemed like a crime to dive into them. First there was the Natsumi Roll, sushi rice gently hugging a mixture of spicy tuna avocado, apple and basil each topped with a buttery sliver of tuna beautifully lying across each piece. The combination of flavors in this roll made my heart skip a beat. It was culinary perfection.
Next was the Gold Leaf Roll that consisted of spicy tuna with mango rolled together with slivers of fresh salmon on top dusted with edible gold leaf. Sound to good to be true? Well you”re right. Last but not least, was the Doppio Toro, another japanese/italian fusion roll that made you believe Roberto Benigni may actually parade around his house in nothing but a kimono and bright red lipstick. Imagine salmon and yellow tail toro combined with avocado, asparagus, pesto, and a drizzle of spicy mayonnaise with the slight crunch of tempura flakes. It takes traditional sushi and turns it on its head. We also decided to indulge in two pieces of toro sushi that were not only velvety and smooth as butter, but possessed the most stunning shade of ruby-red. The fish tasted so fresh and delicate at Natsumi it”s hard to believe the kitchen doesn”t back out onto the Atlantic Ocean.
Sadly, we were gluttons for punishment that night and I had to end the meal with a bite of something sweet, even though there was barely any room left in my stomach. I sat and watched with envy as the table next to us devoured the tempura cheesecake. For a second I couldn”t help but picture Chef Hari Konagaya wearing a wife beater and jean shorts wandering the grounds of the Texas State Fair in search of dessert inspiration.
As the couple beside us surrendered their dessert forks, like sheep we decided to follow their lead. Let me just say, it was worth every calorie. Crispy tempura batter on the outside, warm and gooey cream cheese filling on the inside. It”s incredibly rich and decadent. As we paid the check, I felt like I was slowly slipping into a food coma. I wondered if months earlier Miguel was telling the truth. Could he really foresee the future? Was this where my life would end? I felt content sitting at the table that night knowing that if I were to be taken from this life after dining at Natsumi, at least I”d die having had an incredible meal. I mean, there are much worse ways to go. Imagine finishing a Nachos Bell Grande and then getting the final call? That would suck.
MUST HAVES: FOOD: Edamame Dumpling Soup, Natsumi Roll, Tuna Carpaccio, Tempura Cheesecake.